How To Overcome Crayon Envy

Can you handle the power that comes with a big box of crayons?

When I was a kid, there was one thing that distinguished the haves from the have-nots.

A box of 64 Crayola Crayons. 

Back in those days, portable electronic devices did not exist. So, there was no separation based on whether or not you had the latest iStatusSymbol. Clothing didn’t seem to matter as much as it does these days. No one cared about the label you wore.

But the one thing that did divide us was the size of the pack of crayons you brought to school. 

Size doesn’t matter? Hmph. It did with us.

I was always one of the have-nots. I vaguely recall that I started out with a basic eight-pack, probably back when I was in preschool. By kindergarten, I had moved up to the 16-pack.  And eventually, I talked my mom into getting me a 24 pack.

But did I ever get a 64-pack? Never.

In fact, at my inner-city school, there were only two kids in my entire class whose parents afforded them that luxury. The rest of us hated them for it.

I tried to convince myself that I did not need all those colors anyway. But the sight of that sharpener on the box, the one that only came with that glorious 64-pack, always brought on crayon envy. 

It has been years now since I felt like that, but I was reminded of it all this week.

From 64 to 120

The other day, while my son was surfing the Internet, he came upon a Wikipedia entry gave the history of Crayola Crayon colors.

It turns out that Crayola has added many more colors since I was a kid. There are now 120 colors, in addition to 13 that have been retired. 

The entry on Wikipedia was thorough, as it gave the complete history of when each color first came out, what size pack it belonged to, and whether its name had ever changed. My wife wondered why this information was available as surely no one cares about such minutia. 

Well, no one, perhaps, except our son.

As is the tendency with children with autism, when they are interested in something, they REALLY are interested in it. 

Kai immediately printed out the list so that he could learn all of the information. And, in the week since, he has memorized all 120 colors and the pack size that each belong to.  

Whenever Kai develops a new obsession like this, it is always a bit of a dilemma as to whether we should allow it, or try to divert his attention to something more productive.

In this case, we decided to use it to our advantage.

With his fascination with the crayons, it was no surprise when he asked us to get him the box of 120. My immediate reaction was that if I couldn’t have the 64-box set when I was a kid, he surely could not have the 120 crayons now.

But my wife came up with a better idea. Let’s use his desire to get the crayons to motivate him to do something.

We brainstormed with his therapists at school and came up with an idea.

Over the past several weeks, Kai’s tics have returned with a vengeance. He has been loudly clearing his throat and snorting on a regular basis, and it has been driving us crazy.

Tics are often involuntary, but we have found that Kai can control his for a period of time if he really focuses on it.  However, just asking him to stop was not sufficient motivation for him.  But we thought the opportunity to collect crayons would be.

And so, we told him that he could earn one crayon at a time whenever he went one hour without snorting. 

He loved the idea! We started the program immediately.

His teacher also liked the idea, and joined in to extend the program to Kai’s time at school. She said that his snorting had been bothering the other students, so she was happy to try something that might help.

After only a few days, Kai’s tics are down dramatically. He has already earned about half of the box, and enjoys checking off his list each time he collects a new crayon.

My son now has more crayons than I ever did. 

I am a bit conflicted about having my son join the ranks of the “haves”, at least in terms of crayons.  But, I am happy that he worked hard to control his tics. 

Besides, seeing him get a kick out of Mango Tango and Jazzberry Jam is kind of like having my own childhood dream finally come true.


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